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Overview of Data Practices and the Courts

Does the Data Practices Act apply to documents maintained by the Court?

No. Access to court records is subject to the Rules of Public Access for the Judicial Branch.  These rules apply to records filed with the Courts, as well as to other records administered by the Courts, like personnel records, correspondence, and contracts. (See Minnesota Statutes, section 13.90.)

What is the classification of not public data that become part of a court record?

Generally, when a government entity submits not public data to a court, the data remain not public in the hands of the government entity.
However, there are specific situations when the classification of the data changes to public:

What is the classification of records the Courts provide to government entities?

The records have the same level of accessibility at a government entity that they do at the court, unless there is an applicable classification in state or federal law. (See Minnesota Statutes, section 13.03, subdivision 4(e).)

What is the effect of a court order on the classification or accessibility of government data?

A court order does not change the classification of data.  However, in some circumstances, a judge can order a government entity to provide access to not public data. If you work for a government entity and you receive a court order to release not public data, check with your legal counsel before proceeding. (If the order is for public data, simply provide access.) A government entity may oppose a court order to release not public data by following the procedure set forth in Minnesota Statutes, section 13.03, subdivision 6.

What is civil investigative data?

Government entities may classify some data as not public temporarily when preparing for a pending civil legal action. (See Minnesota Statutes, section 13.39.) However, the Courts have held that entities may not use section 13.39 to classify the following court-related documents:

  • A notice-of-claim letter a city receives is not civil investigative data because the data were not collected as part of an active investigation.  St. Peter Herald v. City of St. Peter, 496 N.W.2d 812 (Minn. 1993).
  • Settlement documents are not civil investigative data because "they were not created for the commencement or defense of a ‘pending civil legal action,’ but rather for the settlement of a lawsuit."Everest Dev., Ltd. v. City of Roseville, 566 N.W.2d 341 (Minn. Ct. App. 1997).
  • Records a government entity receives pursuant to the discovery process cannot be classified per section 13.39 as civil investigative data, because the entity did not collect the data as part of an active investigation, and the data are not retained in anticipation of a pending civil legal action.  The data may be subject to a protective order from the Court.  Otherwise, they are presumptively public.  Star Tribune Co. v. Minnesota Twins Partnership, 659 N.W.2d 287 (Minn. Ct. App. 2003). 
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